September 24, 2012

May Maxwell story

the following is a precious, incredibly awe-inspiring story..
recorded by May Maxwell:
“One day in the streets of Paris in the early spring, I saw a little lame boy on a crutch holding a pussy-willow, his face lighted with rapture. I stood and gazed at him and he lifted his eyes to mine and our souls seemed to meet in mutual love and understanding in that moment of beauty. I told my great and learned teacher whom the Master sent to me, Mirza Abul-Fazl, of this slight but touching incident and he said that out of such moments light is born, that out of that momentary contact of the spirit would unfold in the worlds beyond a whole life of meaning and purpose. The traces appear on this earth but the fruition is beyond, the seed of a loving deed, a warm and tender contact, a word of love and hope. A little service, a small sacrifice are but the traces here which like the seed will grow to mighty trees and bear imperishable fruits hereafter. Then how much more such lives as yours, spent in the service of the Cause of God, dedicated to Him, establishing an eternal foundation in this world whose superstructure shall appear in shining minarets and gems under the light of the eternal Sun.”
~ From The Maxwells of Montreal, pp 137-138

September 18, 2012

spiritual empowerment group ~ a new beginning

"Divine civilization, however, so traineth every member of society that no one, with the exception of a negligible few, will undertake to commit a crime... They will become enamored of human perfections, and will consecrate their lives to whatever will bring light to the world and will further those qualities which are acceptable at the Holy Threshold of God."

 (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 132)

after being away for 3 months and taking a few weeks to settle back into life here in Accra, it was time to resume the jr. youth group sessions.  with the exception of our 13 year old daughter, the group consists of kids from the neighborhood.  four of them were 14 years old when we formed, but they were all related to their younger siblings and it helped give the group solidity and support.  now that it's a year later, and all of them have turned 15, they are no longer interested or available for the sessions.  it's one of those growing pains that initially stings but soon gives way to sweetness..

with the older kids no longer actively engaged in the spiritual empowerment program, we were now a group of 5.  i called and invited them to come regroup this past weekend.

from among the four jr. youth who are remaining in the group, there are 2 other siblings, Magdelene (11) and Gideon (10), who have consistently attended Baha'i children's classes and Devotions with our family this past year.  they have been more than eager and interested to create their own jr. youth group as they've seen the enjoyment it brings to their older siblings.  i invited them to come by at the end of the session to play soccer with the group, but they showed up at the beginning of the session.  i let them hang around while we were setting up the space as i wondered what to say to them..

when everyone was gathering to sit down together, i had to address the possibility of having Magdelene and Gideon join the 'gems of justice' group.  as we were consulting, my daughter offered, 'well if they are going to join the group, shouldn't my brother join, too?  he's 11.'  at that moment it clicked for everyone and they answered, 'yes!' and all of a sudden we were in a joyful dialogue about how to help them catch up by studying Breezes of Confirmation as they continue to progress through Glimmerings of Hope.  the older siblings in the group said they can tutor them in the spirit of service. :)  everyone felt happy and energized..this was the moment of sweetness!

it was completely unforeseen how the group would evolve into one that is based on the appropriate age and full of eagerness to learn and serve!  it was one of the best sessions because all of them were participating and interacting as close friends.  i felt so grateful and excited to see a new beginning emerge for this group.

this term, we're planning on presenting a step-dance presentation at the next reflection meeting in november, as well as attending a weekend camp at the Baha'i institute which is an hour away.  we will continue to learn how to manage and care for the keyhole garden and enjoy some new service and sports activities. 

Gideon and Dyami working together
i know that Gideon is not quite ready for the group, especially in terms of his ability to read and comprehend some of the concepts we're discussing.  even if he's not officially considered as part of the group, i believe that being part of this learning process with his friends will have a beneficial effect on him in every way.

he is the first soul i met here in the neighborhood and he's been the one child who has come to every tutoring session, Devotions, children's class and storytelling night that we've hosted.  i have learned that connecting spiritually with 9-10 year olds is a vital precursor to introducing the spiritual empowerment program when they become jr. youth.

Magdelene, Ayana, Dyami, Emil, Jude & Gideon (missing: Akua & Elizabeth)

September 13, 2012

Isaiah..coconut juice vendor

this is Isaiah Boltey.  he is a hard-working young man selling coconut juice on the side of the road in East Legon (the area of Accra where we live).

while he waits for a sale, he lays in the shade under the trees where a plant nursery is located.  when i pull up in the car and roll the window down, he is always so full of joy to greet my driver and me.  he and the driver speak the local language, Twi, together, but since he is from the Central Region he speaks it differently so it makes them laugh a lot each time they are together.

with a machete, Isaiah takes the coconut and skillfully chops off the top sides of the coconut.  he then gives the top piece a side chop to open it just enough without it falling off.  before choosing a coconut he will ask us if we want the soft or hard type -- this refers to the coconut meat, whether you like it soft or hard (i like the hard, dry type; the other type is easier to chew but it feels too smushy sometimes).  after we drink the juice, we give the coconut back to him and he scrapes the coconut meat out and puts the pieces in a plastic bag for us to take away.  it amazes me that he can tell which kind of coconut meat is inside; all of the coconuts look the same to me.

i met Isaiah last year when we moved to this section of the city.  he exudes gratitude and radiance.  he works for someone who provides the coconuts from another region.  each coconut sells for 60 pesawas each (which is about .40 cents).  i give him extra change whenever i have it.  surely he is blessed for striving each day to earn his living honestly and with determination and perseverance..  his goal is to work for himself so that he can earn enough money to save and plan for his future.

"It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation, such as crafts, trades and the like. We have graciously exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God, the True One. Ponder ye in your hearts the grace and the blessings of God and render thanks unto Him at eventide and at dawn. Waste not your time in idleness and sloth. Occupy yourselves with that which profiteth yourselves and others."

(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 26)

September 10, 2012

a Sioux story: choosing inner peace

below is a Sioux story shared by the Native Spirits Tribal Community.  it is one of those stories that touches the very spirit of our lives being as beautiful, interconnected gems of Oneness:

My grandfather took me to the fishing pond when I was about seven, and he told me to throw a stone into the water.

He told me to watch the circles created by the stone.  Then he asked me to think of myself as that stone person.

"You may create lots of splashes in your life,
but the waves that come from those splashes will disturb the peace of all your fellow creatures," he said.
"Remember that you are responsible for what you put in your circle and that circle will also touch many other circles."

"You will need to live in a way that allows the good that comes from your circle to send the peace of that goodness to others."

"The splash that comes from anger or jealousy will send those feelings to other circles. You are responsible for both."

That was the first time I realized each person creates the inner peace or discord that flows out into the world.

We cannot create world peace if we are riddled with inner conflict, hatred, doubt, or anger. 
We radiate the feelings and thoughts that we hold inside, whether we speak them or not.
Whatever is splashing around inside of us is spilling out into the world, creating beauty or discord with all other circles of life.

Remember the eternal wisdom:
 ~Author Unknown

September 07, 2012

striving. struggling. meaning of life.

"...Effort is an inseparable part of man's life. It may take different forms with the changing conditions of the world, but it will be always present as a necessary element in our earthly existence. Life is after all a struggle. Progress is attained through struggle, and without such a struggle life ceases to have a meaning; it becomes even extinct. The progress of machinery has not made effort unnecessary. It has given it a new form, a new outlet."
~ Baha'i Writings

typical structures throughout Ghana

with humility and gratitude, i am striving each day to put into action the principles of the Baha'i Faith in very practical, useful and significant ways.  i cannot ignore for a moment my duty to give and be generous, to show genuine love and sincerity, or to be a radiant beam of hope and kindliness to my neighbors.  this is the meaning and purpose of my life.  though oftentimes it entails spiritual toil and struggle amidst suspicion, mistrust, estrangement and apathy, nothing in this life brings greater fulfillment, contentment or happiness.

"..the happiness and greatness, the rank and station, the pleasure and peace, of an individual have never consisted in his personal wealth, but rather in his excellent character, his high resolve, the breadth of his learning, and his ability to solve difficult problems."

~ Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p.23

we returned back to our life in ghana a week ago.  arriving at the accra airport is quite a struggle in and of itself -- it usually takes an hour to get through customs and then it's mass chaos trying to obtain one's bags through the overly crowded space..

when we first opened the door to our house, it smelled full of must; it had endured intense heat and humidity for the 3 months we were away.  it took us several days of heavy duty cleaning before it felt clean and back to order.  the army of tiny ants still sends some brave soldiers out every day in the kitchen but they are met with a damp cloth and a squirt of cleanser..

once the house was cleaned and the shopping was done and it felt like we could resume normal activities of life as a family, i was excited to go visit the neighbors with whom i've developed good friendships.  the children and jr. youth were so happy to see us again!  it was a very long 3 months apart for us and the hugs were more delightful than words can describe.  each day i go and visit them since they aren't allowed to visit us (read earlier post).  i invite them to come by and collect water since they have none where they live; thankfully the guards and gardener of the compound agree that this is ok and allow them to enter.  i am always in awe watching them carrying it away on their heads as noble and strong servants of God.  the little 5 year old, Joshua, is the cutest..

our way of life continues to be enmeshed with the struggle, toil and suffering of others.  i cannot hide or separate myself from it.  i wake up and go to sleep with my thoughts 'fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men'.  the fabric of my mind is wrapped around the struggles of life that come with economic, social, educational and ecological inequality and injustice.  my thoughts are set in motion toward 'the betterment of the world' by practicing the counsel of Baha'u'llah to 'do some good to every person' whose path i cross.  in this way, i live with the rhythm that justice begins and ends with me..

although we live simply and economically as middle-class people, we always have something to pass on, to share, to offer, etc. to be like a fruitful tree in the garden of our neighborhood.

it is easy to connect with people on a soulful level in Africa.  here in ghana, i feel like a butterfly or a buzzing bee that stops by and visits with many of the varied flowers and gets to exchange the energizing spirit of life with them.  the love in my heart overflows with joy through many acts of kindness, hospitality and generosity.

the other day i received a call from our carpenter.  he did a lot of work for us when we first moved into this house, making a wide variety of furniture that was tailor-made for our family's needs.  he said that he had tried to call several times over the past 3 months but that my phone was switched off and he realized i must have traveled (a common thing for foreigners here in accra to do).  after the usual 'how are you?' introductions and general conversation about what's happening in life, he said something which felt like a gift from God.  he explained that because of my loving-kindness and general love for everyone, especially the children of his land, it was helping him to grow more like this toward his 'own people'.  he expressed that my love for God is so great that it helps him see what is meant by his belief in the example of the life of Jesus..

i can only attribute such a comment to my love for Baha'u'llah whose life and Teachings serve as the channel of God's love in my life.  as a soul whose life is dedicated to the betterment of the world, and whose heart yearns for an ever-advancing spiritual civilization, it is encouraging to receive such a divine confirmation for just being who i am in a very simple way of loving others..